#MeToo charge dissolves the dream team
Phantom has been dissolved but the problems for its four partners, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl, are showing no signs of ebbing away. The 2015 incident where a female employee alleged that Bahl sexually harassed her in a hotel room in Goa has also considerably damaged the personal equation. The latest legal development showcases the acrimony that has seeped in among the four after a detailed account of the incident broke a few weeks ago on a website in the early, heated days of Bollywood's #MeToo movement.
Bahl has filed a Rs 10-crore defamation suit against Kashyap and Motwane, as well as three media organisations in the Bombay High Court. The writer-director-producer has also asked the court for a "permanent injunction" on the two filmmakers demanding they not make any statement about him "to the media or via social media". This emerged after Motwane shared a statement on Twitter calling Bahl a 'sexual offender' who "preyed on a young woman, abused her trust and ruined her life". Meanwhile Kashyap had supported the victim in the online article. The legal move suggests that Bahl, already kicked off an Amazon original and whose writing and directing credits in Super 30 starring Hrithik Roshan are in jeopardy, is trying to restore his career and reputation.
The suit filed suggests that the sexual harassment allegation had resurfaced, after no mention of it for over a year, only "with an intent to settle personal scores, exact vendetta, malign Bahl's image and destroy his career and due to professional jealousy". The latter accusation is telling as Bahl wants to suggest to the Court that of all the Phantom films made so far, it was his directorial feature, Queen (2014) which was the production house's biggest hit. The Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam remakes of the acclaimed Hindi film are expected to release later this year. The fate of other Phantom co-productions including '83, the Kabir Khandirected and Ranveer Singh-starring cricket drama about India's maiden World Cup victory, and Ghoomketu, a comedy featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, are also unclear. Co-producers Reliance Entertainment will either go solo or seek partnership. It further remains to be seen whether Super 30, which is a biopic of Bihar-based mathematician Anand Kumar, will be able to stick to its release date of January 25, 2019. Like all legal cases in India the Phantom feud is just the beginning. The Bombay High Court has stated that Madhu Mantena, who was surprisingly left out of Bahl's suit, and the victim, who remains anonymous, are also to be involved in the case. To use the title of one of Kashyap's films, things are going to get 'ugly.'